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Blood Meridian: or, The Evening Redness in the West by Cormac McCarthy

Updated: May 3

This week I finished reading Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy, which follows “the kid” as he journeys West from Tennessee in the 1840s and eventually joins the notorious Glanton Gang of scalp hunters, engaged to protect the contested border settlements of Mexico. Its violent content is well documented and discussed, mainly on literary sites and cultural discussion threads as you might expect.

I won’t go into gory details, but I found myself gripped on this second attempt at getting through its pages. I find when I feel deeply involved with a text I need to find out more, learn what others think about what’s going on; I notice my path to having picked up this particular book and being so enthralled at this particular time, I want to know more about the author, I want to read around the book, to understand more of that the author is saying about the world as understood through literary association, to discuss it with others.

I first attempted to read Blood Meridian a few years ago and had to set it aside just a few pages in. The idea that people behave in this way was stomach churning to me. I picked it up again a couple of weeks ago when I reflected on circumstances which felt difficult. The wider world has felt more chaotic and frightening for the last three years than I can remember being aware of in younger years. It has felt like a particularly dark year, physically – we seemed to have a very late arriving, short and intense summer and it’s certainly been a very wet, grey autumn with few days of clear, crisp skies and no late burst of sunshine and heat which have characterised the last couple of years. And there are other things which left me with a feeling of darkness, in synch with where we are in November.

The violence and darkest corners of human nature in Blood Meridian have still disturbed me, shaken me, haunted my dreams and forced me to close the book, reconnect with my breathing and yet I've been compelled to return to it. The landscapes and destruction-as-creation depicted in the novel allowed me to acknowledge some of what I have known as a truth, which I haven’t always been able to face and felt all the more disturbed by for ignoring.

As the similarly bleak The Road (1996) looks to some of our worst fears about the future, a future set in our still-recognisable world following some apocalyptic event, Blood Meridian depicts some worst fears and imaginings about a particular period of the past, in a particular place. Like much more of McCarthy’s writing it is placed within the ‘Western’ tradition, and is a strangely beautiful novel, with big ideas and many widely recognised and celebrated allusions to classic literature, hugely affecting in its lack of emotional interiority. The very ideas it portrays and the questions it poses concern our world, human nature and our interconnectedness.

These timeless themes have urged me open up my online book group to adults (aged 18 and over) who would like to engage with texts which are thought – and feeling – provoking.

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27 de nov. de 2022

Wow, I love the descriptions of these books and what they evoked in you. I feel inspired to read blood meridians and face some of my own fears of reading darker materials.

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